Three properties related to the erythrocyte membrane skeleton are found to be altered after the binding of concanavalin A (Con A) to erythrocytes or their isolated membranes. Con A binding to normal erythrocytes imparts resistance to heat (49 degrees C)-induced fragmentation of the cells. The fragmentation, due to denaturation of spectrin at 49 degrees C, is prevented by Con A in a dose-dependent manner, but levels off at concentrations of Con A in excess of 100 micrograms/ml. The binding of Con A to ghosts isolated from normal, trypsin- or Pronase-treated cells prevents (completely or substantially) the elution of the skeletal protein complex when the membranes are extracted under low-ionic-strength conditions in the cold. The Con A-agglutinated membranes of trypsin- and Pronase-treated, but not normal, cells show cross-linking of skeletal proteins and band 3 with dimethyl adipimidate, a 0.86 nm (8.6 A)-span bifunctional reagent. The extent of cross-linking is greater in the Pronase-treated membrane than in the less-agglutinable trypsin-treated membranes. The results show that, after Con A has bound, rearrangements occur in the membrane that alter properties of the skeletal proteins. Additionally, redistribution of the skeletal proteins and the Con A receptor occurs in the lectin-agglutinated membranes.

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